Open Country looks incredibly promising, combining survival, hunting, fishing and exploring in one package. Here’s our hands-off preview.
Before Open Country was even a twinkle in the eye of developers Fun Labs, the Romanian developer was synonymous with two niche yet successful series’. These games were the Cabela’s hunting games and the Rapala fishing series. Long before hunting and fishing simulators were commonplace, Fun Labs were blazing those trails for a decade. Now they’re pooling that experience into something different and quite exciting in the shape of Open Country.
Open Country is a game about survival. Set across 3 connected maps, each of which is inspired by a season – summer, winter and autumn – the idea is to become a Master Outdoorsman. In order to do that, the player will have to guide their chosen character – male or female – to survival in the wilds. Controlling them via a third person view, they’ll have to forage for crafting materials, build camps, hunt and fish for food, maintain their temperature against the elements and fend off the dangers of the wilderness like wolves and bears.
Survival is the core tenet for Open Country. You’re out in the wilderness and there’s no Tesco to visit for supplies. You’ve got to live off the land and its flora and fauna. You’ve got to stay cool/warm enough, maintain your hunger and thirst, catch and cook food, and build shelters in which to sleep.
As far as features go for hunting and survival games, Open Country seems totally unmatched. Using a variety of weaponry (five melee and 12 ranged weapons including bows, shotguns and pistols) to hunt an even wider variety of prey, the hunting side of the game utilises all of the aspects you’d expect. Sound will spook animals so you’ve got to approach them quietly. Even if you’re as quiet as a mouse, you’ll scare your targets away if you approach up wind and they catch your scent. Animals will leave tracks for you to follow if you’re capable enough.
Unlike some games in the hunting genre, you’re not just hunting animals for the fun of it in Open Country (but hey, there doesn’t appear to be anything stopping you from doing that). There’s a narrative to this game, forming the game structure. Players will get quests to complete and missions to accomplish. In one section of game play we were shown at a recent preview event, the player was tasked to clear out a pack of wolves.
The way the narrative element of Open Country best demonstrates how this game is going to stand out from the crowd is with the canine companion. The dog pal in this game isn’t something you just choose and is instantly man’s best friend. You meet the dog during the game and at first, it won’t trust you. The bond with the dog has to be built up over time and as it is, the dog will choose to show up more often and become more useful. Yes, you can pet the dog. In fact, if you want to form a good bond with the dog so that it can track animals or retrieve things you’ve shot, it’s encouraged.
There’s a lot of other aspects in Open Country that are unique for the genre too. A selection of vehicles are available to get you from A to B like ATV’s and snowmobiles – but if you’re on the hunt for something, you might not want to use these noisy vehicles. Of course, with the inclusion of vehicles comes the additional races, challenging players to get from A to B in the fastest time.
Then there’s the experience system. The ability to do most things in Open Country can be improved over time which will either make that action easier to perform or make it more effective. These stats carry across between maps as you progress.
In addition to the single player content, there’s multiplayer on offer too, in both co-operative and competitive. In co-op, up to four Open Country players can work together to explore the map, protect themselves against dangers, and hunt a target animal. In verses, 4 players can race to be the first to bag a trophy kill while attempting to survive the dangers of the world.
Before the preview event, I’d never heard of Open Country. Even on paper, it didn’t sound like it’d be up my street. It certainly sounded like an also-ran in a genre which is getting quite crowded already. Upon seeing it in action though, I was suitably impressed and started to see how this game might push the genre forward. It’s a combination of aspects that are often seen in separate games but rarely put together, like a culmination of a decade’s worth of design from Fun Lab who really pioneered these types of games. Will the combination of hunting, fishing, survival and exploration come together as a seamless package? We won’t have to wait long to find out.
Open Country launches on PC via Steam, PS4 and Xbox One (both digitally) on June 3rd, 2021. The game is developed by Fun Lab and published by 505 Games.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this preview, we attended a digital preview event. For our full review policy, please go here.
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